VII. Conclusions  Clegg and Follett address the relational and dynamic qualities of empowerment within the context of complex theories of organizational power. Clegg (1989: 185) attempts to fix power as an encompassing frame of three circuits. He is more focused on the hegemony of empowerment, which does not allow agents to recognize how the rhetoric of emancipation entraps them. Follett (1924: 122) focuses on the episodic, but is not unaware of the other circuits. She says, for example, "We should notice, too, what is sometimes forgotten, that in the social situation two processes always go on together: the adjustment of man and man, and the adjustment of man and the situation."

By combining disciplinary production with meaning-making processes, Clegg (1989: 186) moves beyond a mechanistic (episodic) theory of empowerment to an imagery of circuits of power. While Follett focuses on more micro issues and Clegg elaborates the macro, both move between situation and social/system integration. Follett refuses to accept powerful-powerless dualities by searching for pathways of interpenetration and difference, while Clegg escapes the duality by recognizing the double-edged nature of power circuits. Both relate situation and meaning analysis together, in a dynamic and non-linear theory of power. The contribution of this paper has been to pair Follett's win/win notions of power-circularity and integrative unity with Clegg's circuits model to fashion a co-power theory of empowerment and disempowerment. This theory reflects, as Follett (1941: 91) puts it, "not only the relation of parts, but the relation of parts to the whole, not a stationary whole, but a whole a-making."

We have also placed the empowerment-disempowerment debate in the historical context of many fin de siecle workers' movements. In the current and prior era, many consultants saw joint management labor committees as a democratic alternative to collective bargaining and as a way to avoid unionism. Follett, however, favored cooperative governance in which workers were trained in knowledge of the whole business and its markets, thereby making democratic governance workable. Our position reflects the middle ground of co-power, incorporating Follettian aspects of joint situation search processes and worker democracy.

The advantage that Follett offers us over most contemporary HR empowerment writers is her non-dualistic, sophisticated understanding of the nature of power-in particular, the relations between forms of participation and contexts of power. Next, we summarize the advantages of combining the perspectives of Follett and Clegg, and explain what important elements each lacks which the other can provide.

We have paired Follett and Clegg because of the striking compatibilities we find in their work. Follett's non-dualistic non-proprietary views of "growing" power have a sophistication lacking in more recent HR empowerment approaches. Both have the concepts of circularity and interpenetration, of the co-creative aspects of power. Follett focused on the individual and interpersonal levels as her action arena, but in a way which reflected a perhaps intuitive understanding of the broader forces affecting power situations (recalling her notion that we would probably never eliminate power-over). Clegg's work embeds individual level power within the three circuits, which together create and determine the patterns we observe of power, powerlessness, and domination. Clegg's more detailed explication of these various circuits, leads us to his perspective that to change such a complex of power effects, would likely require concerted action. Otherwise, the circuits are primarily influenced at the macro level (the facilitative circuit) by changes in production technology and other exogenous and endogenous variables. Follett was not opposed to unions. Her "joint search" approach allowed for the possibility and efficacy of union and other collective actions. Finally, her work anticipated transorganizational networking models rooted in cooperation.

In sum, while Follett allowed for collective action while not addressing the issue directly, Clegg virtually requires collective action as the best hope for individuals to effectively influence the multifaceted and multiple circuits perpetuating the existing power situation. Also, Clegg understood and incorporated Foucault's concept of domination, where both A and B are subject to forces of domination which neither can influence, except through collective action.

We believe that Follett's approach may have been longer-lived had she more fully addressed the issue of concerted action in organizational power situations. We believe that Clegg's work might be more widely cited and used by those in the workplace, had he offered more concrete approaches to individual and interpersonal-level actions affecting power dynamics, linking that level with his broader understanding of the frameworks within which these actions occur. Clegg's outlook for influencing existing power configurations is bleak at best, constrained as it is by the complexity of the circuits as well as by the dynamics of domination. Follett's perspective is more optimistic, yet does not fall into the traps common to contemporary HR empowerment writers.

We believe organizational interventions grounded in a co-power approach will move the field ahead. Such interventions would address Follett's democratization issues as well as Clegg's circuitry. Further, we feel any democratization efforts must be informed by awareness of how innovation and change may result in perpetuating power-over relationships. ODC consultants need to understand what Clegg calls the techniques of discipline and production, which are embedded in everyday work processes in the facilitative circuits of power. Change agents need sensitivity to the domination inherent in organizational systems, and the resistance by-products inevitably linked with the use of power. Both Clegg and Follett agree that attention to all these aspects of power may lessen the amounts of power-over in organizations. In this way, we have hope for overcoming the worker/management dualism, and we may yet realize Follett's dream of growing power together in organizations. A co-power perspective takes the active and reciprocal engagement of power-with processes, and supports them with organizing mechanisms. If we are to realize the light of Follett's empowerment within our organizational structures, it helps to have a blueprint of the circuits of power.


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This paper proceeds From Title/Abstract  through 7 steps: (1) briefly reviewing the current empowerment-disempowerment debate; (2) contextualizing Mary Parker Follett's work with a review of the democratic workplace movements of Marxist socialism, trade unionism, guilds, cooperatives, and non-union workers' councils; (3) discussing Follett's theory of co-active power circularity, with its roots in Hegel's and Dewey's philosophy; (4) summarizing Clegg's circuits of power theory; (5) combining Follett's power-as-capacity concept with Clegg's circuits of power in an assimilative reading we term "co-power," which can move us beyond today's empowerment-disempowerment duality; (6) drawing implications for organizational development and change practices regarding co-power as a way of linking micro and macro issues; and (7) offering conclusions regarding co-power as a way of increasing the effectiveness of organizational change efforts. (And References).